March has finally begun, the days are getting longer, and perhaps best of all, this week is British Pie Week. With so many delicious options both sweet and savoury, it was a challenge to choose just one pie to showcase as our recipe of the week, but we have chosen the hearty Game Pie from The Claire MacDonald Game Cookbook.
‘Game Pie’ from The Claire MacDonald Game Cookbook
A good game pie makes the most wonderful dish for a special lunch with family and friends. It ticks all the boxes. It’s convenient in that it can be made in its entirety 24 hours ahead, needing only to be baked before serving. For game pie I prefer to use puff pastry, and I buy this rather than making my own. But some brands are better than others. If you can’t find the excellent Bells brand, then use any other all-butter puff pastry.
1.2 litres / 2½ pints game stock or shop-bought chicken stock
1 sprig of thyme
1kg / 2¼lb game (e.g. pheasant, old grouse, hare, rabbit) cut into 2cm / 1″ chunks and trimmed of any gristle, skin and sinew
2 rounded tbsp flour
1 tsp salt, about 20 grinds black pepper, a grating of nutmeg
4 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
2 onions, skinned and finely diced (use 3 banana shallots if you prefer a slightly milder taste)
1 fat clove of garlic, skinned and finely diced
150ml / ¼ pint full-bodied red wine – e.g. merlot or sangiovese
1 tbsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp redcurrant or bramble jelly
500g / 1lb puff pastry
1 large egg, beaten well
Put the stock and thyme sprig into a saucepan and bring to simmering point. Simmer with the pan uncovered until the stock has reduced by half.
Meanwhile, mix the salt and pepper and freshly grated nutmeg into the flour, then put this into a large polythene bag. Add the chunks of game meat. Shake the bag vigorously, to coat each chunk of meat in the seasoned flour.
Heat the oil in a large casserole and brown the floured game chunks, a small amount at a time, making sure it is browned on all sides. Scoop the meat into a warm dish, leaving behind as much oil as you can, before adding more game chunks to the casserole.
When all the game is browned, reduce the heat slightly beneath the casserole and fry the diced onions, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and transparent, about 5 minutes.
Scrape the bits off the base of the casserole, and stir in the wine and the reduced stock – fish out the thyme and chuck it in the bin – stirring until the liquid bubbles. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and the redcurrant or bramble jelly.
When the sauce is simmering, put the browned game back into the casserole, stir it into the sauce, and bring the liquid back to a gentle simmer. Cover the casserole with its lid and cook in a moderate oven (180°C / 350°F / gas 4) for 1 hour.
Take the casserole out of the oven and, when cool, spoon the contents into a pie dish. This can be done up to 48 hours before baking the pie, but be sure to cover the pie dish and its contents with clingfilm and store it in the fridge.
Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured board to a size large enough to more than cover the surface of the pie dish. Roll the pastry loosely around your rolling pin when you have finished rolling it out – this makes it is much easier to lay over the surface of the pie filling without tearing the pastry with your fingers.
To complete the pie, take the pie dish from the fridge. Put a couple of eggcups or ceramic pie birds into the contents, pushing them down, to support the pastry. Brush the edges of the dish with beaten egg, then cover the entire dish with the rolled-out puff pastry. Trim it around the edges with a sharp knife, leaving a very small overhang (the pastry will shrink slightly as it cooks).
Shape the edges of the pastry, either by pinching the pastry together at neat, repeated intervals, or, using the blunt edge of the blade of a small knife, at regular intervals and close together cut into the pastry edge.
Brush the entire surface of the pastry with beaten egg. Slash it evenly in about 8 places to let the steam escape during cooking time.
Any leftover pastry can be artistically shaped into leaves or roses – use your imagination! (Or leave it plain: unadorned but golden brown puff pastry looks very good to me.)
Bake the game pie in a hot oven (200°C / 400°F / gas 6) for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to moderate (180°C / 350°F / gas 4) and cook the pie for a further 20–25 minutes, or until the pastry is well puffed up and deeply golden in colour.